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Delta flight academy opens in Vero Beach as air travel surges in area

Airline seeks to lower barriers to entry, create diverse workforce
Posted at 5:34 PM, Aug 15, 2023

VERO BEACH, Fla. — Delta Air Lines on Tuesday opened its Propel Flight Academy in conjunction with Skyborne Aviation at the Vero Beach Airport.

Capt. Patrick Burns, a 24-year employee in Delta flight operations, said these schools are part of the company's commitment to lower the barriers to entry, and creating a workforce as diverse as its customer base.

Capt. Patrick Burns, a 24-year employee in Delta flight operations, said the goal is to "access a wider group of experience and people." Aug. 15, 2023
Capt. Patrick Burns, a 24-year employee in Delta flight operations, said the goal is to "access a wider group of experience and people."

"The idea is getting into this profession is an important thing so we can access a wider group of experience and people," Burns said.

Are there enough people? It depends on whom you ask.

At an April congressional hearing, the president of the Regional Airline Association spoke about workforce challenges and a pilot shortage.

On the flip side, the Air Line Pilots Association said there are more than enough pilots to meet demand.

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The reauthorization bill passed in the U.S. House last month that would raise the mandatory retirement age for pilots from 65 to 67. It awaits a vote in the Senate.

"Pilot supply is stressed. The industry is hiring a lot of pilots," Burns said. "The good thing about Delta is that we're a destination career,."

This pilot training partnership comes as Vero Beach is experiencing a huge increase in air passenger traffic.

Airport Director Todd Scher said they had no idea what to expect when Breeze Airways began commercial service to a few cities in the Northeast six months ago.

So far, more than 35,000 people have flown from Vero Beach, surpassing expectations.

"Load factors have been right around 80%. Generally speaking, the airlines like to see 65% as a profitability level," Scher said.

Regardless of whether Delta ever flies out of Vero Beach is one thing, but the airline's goal is to eventually have one-third of all its pilots learn their skills on the Treasure Coast.

Students can apply to begin training with Delta providing eligible students with up to $20,000 in financial support. The program includes simulators with the laboratory and airfield.